© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Health, Science & Environment

Ohio starts to make its mark on the hydrogen market

hydrogen generator
Ann Thompson
You could be seeing these along a "Transcontinental Hydrogen Highway" as hydrogen vehicles fuel up.

Of the estimated 54 public hydrogen fueling stations in the United States (some figures put the number over 100), most of them are in California and one is in Hawaii.

That's a problem even in California, where sometimes drivers have to wait in lines for 30 minutes to fuel. KABC anchor David Ono went to a fueling station in 2021 and he traveled to Japan to report on how Namie Town is using hydrogen.

What are we doing in Ohio?

A Dayton company, Millennium Reign Energy (MRE), designs, manufactures and distributes hydrogen stations to fuel cars, heavy equipment, homes and more. It has plans to create a Transcontinental Hydrogen Highway.

Initially, MRE would install 27 hydrogen stations from New York to Los Angeles. The timetable is unclear.

This would be green hydrogen made from renewable sources like solar and wind and different from the blue hydrogen Ohio, Kentucky and other states are talking about, which uses natural gas.

Ohio is starting to make its mark on the hydrogen market. Hyperion is opening a fuel cell research and manufacturing center in Columbus, and by 2024 Honda will produce a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.

Cincinnatian Mark West is forming a group of hydrogen enthusiasts. He says it's the age-old chicken and egg problem. "We don't have fuel cell vehicles because we don't have hydrogen stations at which to fuel them. And nobody is really investing in putting in hydrogen fueling stations if there are no cars to show up and buy the hydrogen," he says.

Honda is already manufacturing the Clarity Fuel Cell vehicle. Hyundai makes the Nexo SUV and Toyota has the Mirai, all powered by hydrogen.

A hydogen fuel cell in a Toyota Mirai
Ann Thompson
A look at a fuel cell battery under the hood of the Toyota Mirai

Canton has one of the largest fleets of hydrogen fuel cell-powered transit vehicles

More than 10 years ago, Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA) decided to start assembling a zero-emission fleet. Now it has one of the largest fleets in North America.

"We began by developing a transition plan to move from diesel, to diesel/electric, to CNG powered-vehicles," CEO Kirt Conrad said.

"When we started, HFCs weren't on our radar screen," he says. "We soon realized, however, that CNG was a waypoint on the path to our goal, not the ultimate destination. As we learned more and more about alternative fuels it became apparent that HFCs were the real long-term sustainability solution we were seeking."

The buses initially cost $2 million each. Now they're down to $1 million. Stark County used $20 million in state and federal grants to pay for 15 hydrogen buses.

Conrad says he gets calls every week from municipalities looking to get hydrogen buses. He has talked to Cincinnati.

In January, the Department of Energy announced $47 million in funding to accelerate hydrogen research and development of technology. One goal is reducing clean hydrogen from five dollars per kilogram to one dollar per kilogram within the next 10 years. One kilogram of hydrogen is about equal to one gallon of gas.

GE Aerospace has interest in hydrogen

GE Aerospace has applied for federal funds to build a hydrogen hub. In addition, the Cincinnati-based company is creating a new fuel delivery system so it can use hydrogen fuel in its engines.

Not everybody is singing the praises of hydrogen. Some point to the energy needed to power a green hydrogen fuel cell is three to four times that of an electric battery. And there are claims that hydrogen has 11 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over a 100-year timeframe.

Copyright 2023 91.7 WVXU. To see more, visit 91.7 WVXU.

Health, Science & Environment Hydrogen
With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.